Solid game for the Senators against the Panthers on Saturday. It was great to see that neither the previous layoff nor the upcoming layoff were so distracting as to lead to a shoddy effort. The team, although they started a little slow in the first, didn't let their upcoming trip to the Muskokas (the second one in two weeks) become a distraction.
A few notable season-firsts in this game: First goal for Shean Donovan, first points for both Brian McGrattan and Randy Robitaille, first point and then first goal for Christoph Schubert, and, of course, first win for Ray Emery.
Patrick Eaves had an outstanding game. He seems to realize that there is some serious competition, not only for ice time, but even for a roster spot. If he wants to stick around on this team, he'll have to continue this type of play to prove he's a second- or third-line player. He generated quite a few chances, played with an aggressive forecheck, and offered a dandy screen on Schubert's goal. He's also a class act; remember how he was the one Ottawa player standing guard around Dean McAmmond when Deaner was injured? Well, today, he was standing right by David Booth when he injured his neck, talking respectably to Olli Jokinen--probably about how he was reading to sick kids or old people in the hospital last night, or something.
Another player who impressed me was McGrattan. While he certainly looked a little tired in the third period--although he only played 5:16--he made stuff happen. He and his linemates, at the time Schubert and Donovan, had a great shift which ended up drawing a penalty on Ruslan Salei. A few minutes later, McGrattan sped down the wing like I've never seen him skate before, and got a decent shot on net. He threw a solid hit on Ville Peltonen, which also knocked the (terrible, terrible) referee over, which was a bonus. The best play, though, was when Grats entered the zone, dropped the puck for Schubert, and it eventually led to Donovan's goal. Great play; McGrattan obviously realizes he's got to add something to his game, and he's apparently been working on it. He wants that roster spot. I was disappointed he got little ice time in the third; does anyone else believe he might deserve more opportunities?
According to an NHL.com article I've heard about, McGrattan is trying to emulate Chris Neil in a transition from enforcer to power-forward. Well, Neiler had a strong game, too. He made all sorts of plays, including one Savardian spin-o-rama to get around the defence. I just wish he didn't have cement hands so he could score on a few of those. In 14:05 of ice time, he got 3 shots and 3 hits, to go along with an assist on Mike Fisher's goal (which opened the scoring).
As mentioned, Booth injured his neck when he was hit awkwardly by Anton Volchenkov. Although Volchie was assessed a 5-minute major and a game misconduct, I think it was merely bad luck. Booth was trying to cut in on Volchenkov, and the Soviet Hammer couldn't stop himself mid-check. I don't foresee any further discipline; Booth is apparently alright, Volchenkov has no priors, and he's known as a clean physical player. A note on Volchenkov's performance, it was very strong, as he'd recorded one hit, two blocked shots, an assist, and was +2 in only 9:22 before being ejected.
Nick Foligno was also hit into the boards awkwardly, and hurt his neck. He left on his own steam, but didn't come back into the game. The Team 1200 said he'll be fine, which is great news. I just don't understand why there was no penalty on Branislav Mezei for his hit on Foligno, while Volchenkov got 15 minutes for his hit. They looked eerily similar. For the record, it was and obvious accident, and Mezei was out of position seeing if Foligno was okay when Fisher scored only seconds after the hit.
Funny (although extremely stressful at the time) mistake by John Paddock after the Volchenkov penalty was over; because no one was serving the 5 minutes in the box, Paddock must not have noticed the penalty was over, and the Sens ended up playing short-handed for an extra 53 seconds. It was absurd... I tried getting a 'One More Player' chant going, but no one joined me. And for all my voice could muster (seriously, I've lost my voice), Paddock couldn't hear me. Finally, Daniel Alfredsson flipped the puck into the Florida bench to get a whistle, and get things organized.
Speaking of Alfredsson, he was amazing--once again. He scored the butter goal, making it 4-1. I won't write too much, because I'll be writing an entry sometime this week about Alfie. I've got to find something to write about in the week off.
Best player for Florida, aside from Tomas Vokoun: Jay Bouwmeester. He played pretty well, much better than I'd expected. I'll revoke my harsh criticism of Bouwmeester, for now, although I stand by my statement that The Hockey News' rankings were terrible.
And, in case you're wondering, Rayzor played well. When Ottawa started slow in the first, he kept them in the game; they were outshot 7-2 at one point, before pouring it on big time. He also made a solid glove-save, proving his wrist is in good shape. If not for Vokoun's 43 saves, though, this game would have been more of a blowout.